By Bob Falkenstein
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare’s plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio. It is believed that around 750 copies of the First Folio were printed, of which there are 233 known surviving copies.
Will Power: What makes Shakespeare.. Shakespeare
Behind their parents’ backs, a 16 year-old boy marries a girl who is two weeks shy of her 14th birthday. The marriage is supported by a local clergyman who helps the boy escape punishment for publicly slaughtering the girl’s nephew. A nurse, employed by the girl’s parents, arranges for the consummation of the marriage before the groom is banished. The same misguided priest assists the girl in her fake suicide, which directly leads to the boy’s death, and subsequently her own.
Somehow, this plot has become the most read play in 8th and 9th grades across these United States and the rest of the world, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Any textbook or literary work not on a school district’s approved reading list must be approved at a public meeting to insure the title meets local standards. Many adolescent novels never reach approved status when challenged by citizens. Imagine the fervor surrounding that plot.
What makes Shakespeare the greatest story teller of all time? People do! He wrote about people who have problems with other people, and more importantly, people who have problems with themselves. Ancient Greek tragedies pitted man against gods who controlled their fate. Shakespeare experiments with the notion that some people create their own destinies by making poor choices. Though he lived centuries before Freud’s theories, his characters suffer insomnia, OCD, paranoia, and many more maladies of modern man.
The New Folger Library makes reading Shakespeare’s work more easy by printing the dialogue of his plays on the right hand pages only, while providing notes and “translations” on the left facing pages. Many online references summarize water-down Acts and Scenes into capsule summaries. But the true joy of Shakespeare is appreciating his flamboyant use of language. He loves to show off. Out of the 11,000 words used in his 37 plays and 154 sonnets, he invented one thousand of them. Some phrases used today, penned original by the Bard include, “Cruel to be kind,” “Good Riddance,” “Off with his head,” “Love is Blind,” “Knock, knock, who’s there,” and “You can’t have too much of a good thing.” Plus that one about “Let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Shakespeare’s English is from the period known as Modern English, preceding Old English and Middle English, used also by The King James Authorized Translation of The Holy Bible. Both texts remain best-sellers to this day. There is nothing to fear reading early forms of Modern English – No Pain, No Gain.
Though a genius, Shakespeare borrowed many of his ideas from biographies of historical figures, like Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, dozens of British monarchs, and common stories such as “Romulus and Iuliet.” Because he died before the birth of copyright laws, his works are often adapted and performed with disregard to residuals, perpetuating his popularity to future generations.